A story: when I took my first (& only) novel writing class last year, we had to submit a chapter for workshopping.
What happens, you ask?
Everyone comments on your work, but there are ground rules to keep it constructive. You say, ‘I enjoyed X’ and ‘I have a question about Y.’
Fine. I was nervous, but confident. I reminded myself of my degrees (two), my career as an English teacher (a decade) and my copywriting business (fifteen years of writing for hours every day).
But small detail: I didn’t know how to write a novel.
So anyway, my turn came.
And a guy with a novel that was pretty bad – as in, he submitted 30 single-spaced pages of awful science fiction about a planet you actually hoped would implode, killing everyone DEAD – this guy stood up, waved my pages and (practically) yelled:
‘I JUST DON’T GET IT. I DON’T GET ANY OF IT. I DON’T UNDERSTAND ANY OF THIS.’
He didn’t play by the rules.
I was so shocked that I laughed.
Out of nervousness.
It took me a few days to get over what he said, even though I knew he was wrong. Have you ever been there??
Our hearts keep getting involved.
It’s hard to let our heads take over, sew a few clumsy stitches into that red pumping thing in our chests and keep on working.
But I did. And guess what? The publisher to whom I pitched the first three chapters of my novel loved it, shared it around his office, and invited me to submit the finished book. An intelligent manuscript assessor, a fine writer herself, said she ‘loved, loved, loved it.’ And I hope to sign a publishing deal this year.
But I know one thing for sure: my heart’s a lot tougher than it was before I started.
As my dear friend Heather’s Dad said, ‘You can’t start younger.’
You can’t start smarter, either.
You just have to start where you are.